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Finishing Touches: La Jolla Parks & Beaches approves Cove Pavilion materials

Although plans for the La Jolla Cove Pavilion restroom facility have been approved and submitted to the City, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory committee requested its architectural designers make a presentation about the textiles and finishes that will be used on the new facility’s exterior.

Honoring that request, representatives from the City of San Diego, Safdie Rabines and Mosher Drew architecture firm spoke at the LJP&B meeting, Jan. 22 at the Rec Center.

The pavilion plan was introduced in January 2014 and proposed as a public-private partnership, with funding from the City and local donors. The current, 50-year-old facility has 10 toilets in single-sex restrooms and one unisex facility, and the new restroom pavilion will have more single-stall unisex toilets, and a men and women’s toilet room.

The new facility will also feature benches, outdoor showers, ADA-compliant toilets and indoor showers, and storage for beach equipment.

As a whole, it will consist of two buildings with a breezeway in between. One building will house the unisex stalls, and the other the single-sex restrooms and changing rooms, surrounded by exterior features.

LJP&B member Judy Adams Halter has been spearheading the project, which started, she said, because “our daughter got married and we had a lot of out-of-town guests using the facility and I was embarrassed. We have this beautiful park and a comfort station that looked like a hurt locker.

“We had a Request for Qualifications and Safdie Rabines won that (for a preliminary design), and the City appointed Mosher Drew (architects) to follow through with a conceptual design.”

The different groups spoke about the design choices. Architect Bill Magnuson of Mosher Drew opened: “We’re done with working drawings, the project is now in the approval process with the City. The view from about a year ago is effectively the same in terms of spaces, shapes and forms.”

Architect rendering of the planned La Jolla Cove (restrooms/showers) pavilion in what will be its location in Scripps Park. Courtesy

The exterior, he explained, would include board-form concrete (which resists tape and graffiti), on the upper half, with the lower half a textured concrete with sea shells, sea horses and other marine life etched into it to mimic the rocks and cliffs of the area and be reflective of marine life. Alaskan yellow cedar with an opaque stain would be used for the roof.

The steel columns that hold up the structure will be painted with an industrial coating in a metallic champagne color to blend in with other warm tones.

“The challenges with the finishes include making it bulletproof for water, crud and mold. So we did a number of things with the concrete, including adding additives to resist water moving through, and densifying the surface finish, grinding it smooth to polish it, so there are no pores water can get into. The lower part of the shower wall is even denser,” Magnuson said.

However, board and audience members, and some swimmers present, cited concerns with the intensity of the lights and maintenance of the proposed cobblestone textures and wood roof.

Lighting system

A series of LED lights are planned to line the interior breezeway and glow, rather than shine out, to prevent “light pollution.”

“We wanted to spread light around so it felt like a safe corridor,” Magnuson said, “so we put these surface mounted sconces up that light out, up and down. It won’t be like headlights shining at you.”

But LJP&B trustee Patrick Ahern countered: “This is an issue we had at Mount Soledad … this is a place where you can feel you’re part of nature, especially at night. So we’ve been discouraging a lot of up-lighting. I have concerns about the lighting.”

Magnuson said there’s a possibility of bringing the lights down should they be deemed too bright.


The plan was originally to have a cobblestone texture, horizontally, under the benches on the lower portion of planter walls and along the walkway. The cobblestone accent came at the request of the LJP&B committee to make the exterior consistent with other beachside décor and create a textured surface to prevent slip-and-falls.

But after some concerns about maintenance, including whether the stones would collect dirt and accrue mold, the cobblestone accents were moved to a vertical position on the wall and on the planters.

Roof options

Also citing concern about maintenance, some people asked whether wood was the best choice for the roof, which features skylights with trellised edges.

Magnuson said the roof would be painted with an opaque stain that does not peel like paint does, but gives the appearance of paint. The wood itself, he added, was chosen after evaluating all other options such as vinyl and aluminum.

“Other materials are heavier, more costly and are more difficult to create joints in the trellis,” Magnuson said. “Some of the roof is open trellis, other portions have clear and blue transparent panels. The toilet room roofs are solid over the toilets and showers.”

Safdie Rabines founding partner Taal Safdie added: “In other projects, the metal seems to wear and rust more than the wood.”

All said, the board voted to support the design choices as presented, considering “the suggestions made today,” said Adams Halter. Bill Robbins was the lone vote in opposition. The project is expected to break ground this fall. Learn more at

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